Reality Tours & Travel was founded in 2005 by Chris Way and Krishna Pujari. Krishna recently told our founding story on the TEDx stage.
The Dharavi Tour and the concept behind Reality Tours was originally inspired by the favela tours that Chris had seen in Brazil. The pair wanted to use walking tours of Dharavi to raise awareness about life in slums and simultaneously raise funds for local community projects.
Krishna Pujari, the son of rice farmers from Heranjalu in the South Indian state of Karnaraka, was working in a Colaba restaurant when Chris originally came to India. The two met when Chris ate at Krishna’s restaurant. Later, the two serendipitously met again on the Oval Maiden when Chris was looking for a cricket match. The two quickly became good friends and Chris shared his idea of educational walking tours of Dharavi.
Reality Tours & Travel was founded in August 2005 but we didn’t run a Dharavi tour until January 2006. It wasn’t easy to convince people to come and visit a slum: hotels wouldn’t work with us because we wouldn’t pay commission and people were sceptical of flyers being handed out on the street trying to bring them to a slum. Despite only having 367 visitors in 2006, we remained determined. We knew that Dharavi was a fascinating place and that the tour was an important step to raise awareness. In addition, the feedback we received from first tours was extremely positive. Our big break came when Lonely Planet included us in their 2007 guidebook.
In 2007, even though Reality Tours was not yet profitable, we decided to begin community work. After assessing the needs of the community, we founded a community centre that provided English classes. Before long we began offering computer classes as well.
In 2009 we expanded our social work by establishing our own non-profit organisation that would focus on providing high quality education to young people from underprivileged communities. The charity, Reality Gives (formerly Reality Cares), was founded after long talks with the community in Dharavi. It became clear that there was a need for additional education facilities in the area.
Currently, Reality Gives runs educational programs across Mumbai and Delhi, having impacted approximately 7000 beneficiaries to date. The community centres in Dharavi (Mumbai) and Sanjay Colony (New Delhi) deliver English, Computer and Life Skills classes to youth, as well as sports and art activities to adolescents. We also run a primary school in Dharavi that brings high-quality education to 500 kids every year. To find out more, you can read our 2017 annual report here.
Over the years
Reality Tours has undergone a series of changes and expansion over the years. In 2011, Reality Tours started offering tours in South Mumbai with the creation of the Local Transport, Market and Night Tours.
We also made our first move outside of Mumbai with our village tours to Chinchoti. In 2013, we added an early morning Bicycle Tour and a Street Food Tour. As with the Dharavi Tour, 80% of the profit from all of the Mumbai city tours and village tours support Reality Gives.
In 2012, we were recognised for our efforts: awarded with the honour of being overall winners at the Responsible Tourism Awards. The judges encouraged us to expand our model of sustainable development. Hence, in 2013, Reality Tours expanded to Rajasthan and Kerala by offering multi-day tours through these two beautiful Indian states.
In the summer of 2014, we opened our office in New Delhi and began working within the slum, Sanjay Colony—located in the Okhla Industrial Area, India’s largest industrial area. We then offered Old Delhi Tours, Old Delhi Street Food Tours, and Sightseeing Tours, followed by Agra Tours. To further our commitment to reinvesting 80% of all profits back to the community, we used Delhi profits to replicate Reality Gives’ English classes and Computer Program in Sanjay Colony.
Reality Group now welcomes over 15,000 guests each year and employs over 50 members of staff.